Although I hate violence and am really squeamish, I’ve always loved organised crime dramatisations such as The Sopranos, The Godfather, Peaky Blinders etc. They fascinate me. Yet these are stories where men take the lead roles. So when I heard about The Khan, a novel in which a woman is head of a Pakistani organised crime gang, I was desperate to read it. I was very intrigued, especially when I saw the book cover, which I think you will agree, is so simple, yet so striking and powerful. After finishing this novel a few weeks ago I’m still very much intrigued.
Set against a gritty backdrop of racial divides and misogyny, The Khan is the story of Jia, the daughter of Akbar Khan, a powerful crime lord in Bradford. Estranged from her father for many years, Jia has carved out a new life for herself as a successful barrister in London. Yet when her father – referred to as ‘The Khan’ as he heads up the local Pakistani community – is suddenly murdered, Jia is forced to confront her past and revaluate her life and values. Don’t worry, Jia’s father dying is not a spoiler!
In a race to save the lives of those she holds dear, Jia is forced to take her father’s place in the Bradford community. She becomes the new Khan, taking over the running of the crime empire. Yet a new organised crime gang is intent on dominating the streets of Bradford, and is happy to use brutal violence and bloodshed to do so. This new crime syndicate is led by the charming, silver haired Andrzej Nowak.
As well as having to confront her family history, a part of her self that she has spent many years running away from, Jia also has to deal with the direct misogyny from the ‘Jirga‘, her father’s close, loyal group of male associates who firmly believe in the ‘old way’. Furthermore Jia’s estranged husband enters her life again, and he not alone.
Written by award winning journalist, Saima Mir, The Khan is an gritty exploration of the underbelly of a multicultural community. It is multi-layered as Mir is not afraid to deal with dark, societal issues head on, especially deeply ingrained racial issues. For that reason it is so potent and compelling. This is a powerful, unconventional read that stands out.
The characters and the interweaving relationships between these characters are tense and complex. Yet for me Jia is a frustrating protagonist – I found her very aloof, not just with the other characters but also with me as a reader if you understand what I mean? For that reason I really struggled to empathise with Jia. I also liked the plot but at times I felt that some aspects of it were a little bit too conveniently placed. However the story does have a twist – I was sure I had worked the twist out, so much so I would have bet my life on it. I was wrong – which as a reader I loved.
I could be wrong but I feel that there will be a sequel to The Khan. I hope so as I really want to explore Jia, the supporting characters and their interweaving relationships further. My curiosity as a reader has not been satisfied yet and feel (and hope) Saima Mir has only just got started with Khan dynasty. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a full series. I hope so.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of this gritty, standout novel which was published in hardback on 1st April 2021. To follow the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the tour, please see below.
Happy reading everyone!